It’s hard to believe that a mere few weeks ago, the entire nation was mired in the collective fever dream of the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Mania — until, suddenly, it was cut short at the height of the frenzy. Popeyes announced on August 27 that the sandwich was officially “sold out” for an indeterminate amount of time, putting a temporary stop to the weeks of ridiculous lines, worker exhaustion, and shortages that prompted customer behavior far too egregious for a fucking sandwich.
Popeyes has been largely quiet since announcing the temporary cessation of sandwich sales, apart from an opportunistic plug for its mobile app, which the chain promised would alert users of the sandwich’s return. (Seems like a good way to build an app following, idk.) But today, the fried chicken franchise broke its silence to announce a new, stopgap initiative while the company presumably fixes its supply chain issues: BYOB, or Bring Your Own Bun.
“Popeyes still has the best fried chicken in the game, so bring your own bun, order 3-piece tenders and voilà! You can make your own sandwich,” a press release reads. In a promotional video, disgruntled-looking customers (or actors depicting customers, that is) are shown cursing and begrudgingly shoving chicken tenders — a longtime staple of Popeyes’ menu — into various store-bought sandwich breads, from hamburger bun to poppyseed roll.
Let’s be clear: Popeyes is not actually selling anything new with this BYOB campaign. If anything, it’s simply a sanctioning of bringing in outside foods into the franchise’s restaurants, a move that is typically frowned upon (in an online FAQ, McDonald’s UK states: “Only food and drink purchased from McDonald’s should be consumed on McDonald’s premises.”), but anecdotally speaking, rarely enforced in fast-food establishments. Technically, customers could have been discreetly bringing their own buns into Popeyes to be stuffed with chicken tenders this whole time, as some have already suggested on social media. A better idea could have been for Popeyes to package a discounted bun-plus-tenders combo, or even a biscuit-plus-tenders kit, to facilitate the building of biscuit sandwiches with chicken and a layer of mashed potatoes and gravy (a go-to Popeyes move for some Eater staffers).
Which brings us to the heart of the logical fallacy inherent in Popeyes’ BYOB concept: It wasn’t the buns that were running out, but the chicken itself, according to a New York Times interview with Popeyes leadership. Bringing your own buns to a Popeyes won’t solve for the crucial lack of fried chicken fillet, which are reportedly made with a completely different batter than the tenders, and the actual part of the sandwich that fans were so rabid to get their hands on.
B.Y.O.B: bring your own bread
— just_peachi (@peachi_keen30s) August 27, 2019
If Popeyes’ goal is to supply a viable alternative for the missing sandwich, BYOB is nothing more than a deflection that fails to address the heart of the problem (the chicken). But if the goal is pure buzz, there’s a chance the move could backfire. In the afterglow of sandwich fever, customers plied Popeyes’ Twitter account with demands for answers — were employees compensated for all the additional work and stress? was the shortage just a manipulative marketing ploy? how could the fried chicken franchise run out of its core ingredient? — that went unresolved. BYOB is a cute, albeit illogical, wink and nod, but it doesn’t truly satiate the hunger of a public ravenous for a single menu item. At a certain point, nothing but the sandwich itself will do.